Penguin Random House, the world’s largest publisher, has sold Author Solutions, its self-publishing branch. The company started the new year by jettisoning this controversy-attracting division. Najafi Companies, a private equity firm known for purchasing troubled brands, has purchased Author Solutions and retained one of its executives to manage the division.
Penguin Random House is owned by publisher Pearson, who bought Author Solutions in 2012 for $116m. Reportedly, the current sale has brought in a fraction of that amount.
Author Solutions gave writers access to publishing tools that allowed them to go the indie route. By bowing out from the self-publishing business, Penguin Random House effectively admits to Amazon’s dominance in this market.
Author Solutions Controversies
When Author Solutions first entered the market, many authors signed on, eager for the imprimatur of professionalism offered by an established publishing house. Author Solutions offered a range of services to authors who wanted to circumvent the traditional publishing route, including web-optimized press releases that cost $1,299 apiece.
Over time, authors grew disenchanted with the services offered, claiming that it took their money and gave little in return. Their complaints culminated in two class action lawsuits against the company. Both lawsuits were settled in September 2015 without an admission of responsibility from the company, but the company was marred nonetheless.
Author-support sites are rife with complaints about Author Solutions’ hard-sell business practices that sought to sell authors unnecessary, price-inflated services. Moreover, revelations about Author Solutions’ contracts with most major publishers led to accusations of the company targeting publishers’ slush piles. Some claim that Author Solutions contacted authors whose books had been rejected by other publishers and then persuaded them to publish through AS’s costly scheme instead.
Blurb Self-Publishing Services to Expand
Meanwhile, Blurb, a San Francisco-based self-publishing service, has shown interest in expanding its services with its hire of a new CEO. The company’s founder has stepped down from that position to become executive chairman, saying she wants to focus on bringing in new business.
Blurb helps people design their own customized books and magazines, providing the platform for them to publish their books in both physical and digital editions. The platform enables its customers to distribute and sell their books everywhere, including on Amazon.com and Apple Inc.’s iBooks store.
Self-Publishing Opportunities and Pitfalls
Self-publishing opportunities abound, but not all are equally beneficial to authors. Traditional publishers who have been struggling for growth have been turning toward the self-publishing business, which is reportedly seeing robust sales. Like Author Solutions, these companies seek to earn a profit, often at the expense of authors’ earnings.
There are numerous good reasons for an author to publish independently, ranging from artistic control to increased profits. When hiring self-publishing companies, authors must remain alert to promised services that thin their wallets without fattening their book-sale profits.